Wednesday night’s Jammy Awards, held at Madison Square Garden’s WaMu Theater in New York City, found the four members of Phish, reunited on stage for the first time since their final concert in 2004, trading fond memories of their two decades on the road. Honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award, frontman Trey Anastasio made a surprise post-rehab-and-jail-stint appearance, sitting in with Beatles cover band the Fab Faux to handle Eric Clapton’s part on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” He then joined his Phish bandmates Mike Gordon, Page McConnell, and Jon Fishman side-stage to hear rock scribe Anthony DeCurtis’ introduction. “Remember when I snapped that one day [and said], ‘You try getting up at 4:00 p.m. for a photo shoot!'” Fishman recounted to a round of laughs. Ever the jokester, even this drummer-turned-farmer (“This morning as we were getting ready to leave, the post office called to say your geese, ducks, and chickens have arrived,” he cracked), could not overstate the importance of the moment.
But the real emotion came from Anastasio, who has battled his share of personal problems in recent years, and now seems healthy, inspired, and motivated to get back to music (he has a new album due out this June). Holding back tears, the guitar god told a crowd of 5,000 ecstatic jam-band fans: “I want to express something that’s been on my mind for the last five years. I’ve always wanted to have a moment to convey to some degree what all this meant to me and the guys — it was always so much bigger than the four of us. I feel like, as a musician we’re servants, and musicians from the beginning of time have been there to express the mood and the musical feelings in the air for whatever’s going on in that particular culture. It’s the greatest joy to be able to translate that, be part of something and watch the scenery around you. That’s what it felt like to be in Phish all those years…. Thank you so much for the experience.” As for whether phans will see a real reunion sometime in the band’s future? “Never say never,” Fishman said cryptically backstage afterward.